It all comes down to this. The Golden State Warriors and Toronto Raptors will square off in Game 1 of the NBA Finals at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.
If you’re new to single-game formats, be sure to check out my previous work on the subject:
- 5 Tips to Dominate the DraftKings NBA Showdown Format
- How Does the Single-Game NBA Format on FanDuel Differ From DraftKings?
DraftKings is offering a guaranteed prize pool tournament with $1 million for first place, so it’s definitely worth brushing up on your single-game strategy prior to tonight’s contest.
Golden State Warriors at Toronto Raptors (-1), 213.5 Over/Under
There are a bunch of high-priced players who warrant consideration on this slate, but two stand out above the rest.
It starts at the top with Steph Curry, who has been nothing short of fantastic since Kevin Durant went down with an injury. Curry has scored at least 33 points in each of his past five games, resulting in an average of 58.2 DraftKings points per game. He’s posted an average usage rate of 34.9% in those contests and has attempted at least 14 3-pointers in each of his past four games.
It’s easy to forget about Steph at times when he’s sharing the court with Durant — who is arguably the best basketball player in the world — but there’s a reason this guy won back-to-back MVPs.
Unfortunately, there are two concerns with Curry on today’s slate.
The first concern is the return of DeMarcus Cousins. It’s a minor concern — Cousins is only projected for 13.6 minutes in our NBA Models — but Steph has seen his usage rate decrease by -8.9 percentage points when sharing the court with Cousins this season. Durant being out of the lineup will still help, but Curry has averaged just 1.12 DraftKings points per minute with Cousins on the court and Durant off the court this season.
The bigger concern is his likely showdown with Kawhi Leonard. Leonard is the most intimidating perimeter defender in the NBA right now, and he spent the entirety of the Eastern Conference Finals swallowing up whoever was in front of him. He guarded four Milwaukee players for at least 30 possessions, and all four struggled mightily:
- Giannis Antetokounmpo: 160 possessions, -20.3 points per 100 possessions below season average
- Khris Middleton: 145 possessions, -8.3 points per 100 possessions below season average
- Malcolm Brogdon: 65 possessions, -11.5 points per 100 possessions below season average
- Eric Bledsoe: 34 possessions, -13.6 points per 100 possessions below season average
None of those players are as offensively gifted as Curry, but he’s going to have a major battle on his hands. Curry didn’t get matched up with Kawhi during the regular season — Leonard spent the majority of his time on Durant — but Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet were also able to hold him well below his scoring average in that contest.
Overall, it’s reasonable to expect some regression for him tonight.
Speaking of Leonard, he’s a perfectly reasonable Captain choice on DraftKings and MVP choice on FanDuel. His offense was just as impressive as his defense vs. Milwaukee, and he’s scored at least 59.25 DraftKings points in three of his past four games. He posted an average usage rate of 31.8% in that series, and that includes a game where he was clearly hobbled by an injury. He also chipped in nearly 10 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game in addition to strong contributions in blocks and steals.
The Warriors’ defense is a notch below the Bucks’ — possible even a few notches below — so doesn’t have the same matchup concerns as Curry. If he can produce like that vs. Giannis and the Bucks, he should have no problems with the Warriors.
Draymond Green could very easily be considered a “stud” based on his performance vs. the Portland Trail Blazers. He was basically the Tasmanian Devil on both ends of the court, providing contributions in every statistical category across the board.
That said, he faces a much stiffer test vs. the Raptors. He owns an Opponent Plus/Minus of just +0.63 on DraftKings, which is one of the lowest marks on the slate regardless of position. He’ll also have to share the court with Cousins, which could eat into his rebound and usage rates. He’s still a tough fade — he averaged 55.44 DraftKings points per game vs. the Blazers — but he doesn’t appear to offer the same upside as Curry and Leonard.
After Green, there’s a big drop off to the next tier. Kyle Lowry was phenomenal vs. the Bucks, but he remains a risky proposition. He thrives on efficiency instead of volume, so a poor shooting night could result in a disastrous fantasy performance. He posted a usage rate of just 14.8% in his last game but made up for it by shooting 60% from the field and 75% from 3-point range.
With that in mind, Klay Thompson seems like the preferred target at a similar price point. He had at least 20 shot attempts in every game in the Western Conference Finals. He could also see some matchups vs. Leonard, but he figures to see more time against guys like Danny Green and Norman Powell.
Pascal Siakam could also be an interesting buy-low candidate. He struggled at times vs. the Bucks, but his primary focus in that series was on the defensive end of the court. He’ll likely spend the majority of his time in this series on Draymond Green, which should free him up a bit on the offensive end.
This is the price range that I’m least interested in tonight. They don’t offer nearly the same upside as the higher-priced players, while the punt plays present more value. I wouldn’t go crazy with guys in the $4,000 to $7,000 range on DraftKings.
That said, Serge Ibaka is definitely interesting at $4,200. He was on the wrong side of a timeshare with Marc Gasol vs. the Bucks, but this series seems to fit his skill set better. Ibaka was an awesome fantasy asset during the regular season, averaging more than 1.00 fantasy points per minute, so a boost in playing time would make him a nice value.
Kevon Looney is another potential target at $4,800. The return of Cousins should eat into his playing time, but he’s scored at least 29.75 DraftKings points in two of his past three games.
This is the area that will probably decide the slate on DraftKings. One of these low-salaried, low-owned players is going to exceed expectations, and that is going to separate the winning lineups from the losers. Sadly, this is also the toughest area to project, but you’re going to want to take some flyers on a few of these options:
- Norman Powell ($3,600): He was a huge factor vs. the Bucks, scoring at least 31.0 DraftKings points in Games 3 and 4. He has the ability to score the basketball and offers a high usage rate relative to his salary.
- Danny Green ($3,200): Powell’s production vs. the Bucks came at the expense of Green, who played 15.5 minutes or less in each of his past two games. That said, his defensive impact in this series could be important, and he doesn’t figure to struggle shooting the ball forever. He’s one of my favorite buy-low targets on the slate.
- Shaun Livingston ($2,400): His role for the Warriors is pretty much set in stone at this point. He’s never going to play a ton of minutes, but he can offer some production by posting up smaller guards in the paint. He provided 14.75 DraftKings points in his last game, which is enough to make him relevant at his current salary.
- Jordan Bell ($2,000): He’s a true wildcard. He could wind up being a DNP with Cousins back in the fold, but he also offers a ton of upside at his current salary. He’s capable of averaging well over 1.00 fantasy points per minute, so he doesn’t need a ton of playing time to find himself in the winning lineup.
After this piece is published, FantasyLabs is likely to provide news updates on a number of players. Be sure to stay ahead of your competition with our NBA News Feed.
Pictured above: Golden State Warriors G Steph Curry (30)
Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports